Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
AFI 100 Years… 100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) Ranking: #5
Guys… guys. Ohmygod you guys. I am so super excited to re-watch this movie. It’s amazing 😀
Change is never easy. But Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor, Debbie Reynolds, and Jean Hagen make the transition from silent films to “talkies” extremely entertaining and pretty damn easy to watch. I also like how the musical numbers are elegantly woven into the storyline, rather than being awkward like other musicals where the actors randomly burst into song for no reason at all. Incredibly well done.
My favorite numbers are the timeless “Make ‘Em Laugh”- perhaps one of the greatest musical comedy (is that a genre?) sequences ever committed to film, “Moses Supposes”- where Kelly gets to work in some of his mad tap dancin’ skills (although my absolute favorite will always be the tap-dancing-on-roller-skates sequence from “It’s Always Fair Weather”), and “Good Morning”… well, basically any song with Cosmo Brown (O’Connor) in it. His level of energy, comedic timing, the expressiveness of his face, and incredible physicality are fantastic… not to mention that he’s the one that comes up with the great idea to use Kathy as Lina’s voice 😀
Lina Lamont (Hagen) is the film’s villain, for lack of a better term – she’s vain, selfish, and not above a little light blackmail. Her delightfully shrill, squawking voice is hilariously awful, thus requiring Kathy Selden (Reynolds) to dub over Lina’s voice in order to save the film-within-a-film, “The Dueling Cavalier”. Lina’s nefarious portrayal ensures that we’ll enjoy the Hollywood-style ending where she gets her comeuppance, while Kathy gets proper recognition for her talent (and the guy!)
Then we get to the play-within-a-play bit, the Broadway medley. The first time I saw this part, I was confused and slightly bored – the songs seem so odd and out of place. Upon re-watching, I have a much greater appreciation for it. The story of the young hoofer seems to mirror Lockwood’s own path to success, as demonstrated by the tongue-in-cheek opening sequence recounting Don and Cosmo’s varied career in smoky pool halls, vaudeville, and eventually movies. And there’s a healthy dose of mysterious-and-sexy-love-interest (Cyd Charisse) thrown in there to keep things interesting.
There’s almost no need to even mention that Gene Kelly’s performance was flawless, as always, and Debbie Reynolds, holy crap was she really only nineteen years old? Amazing. What makes the film even better (is that possible?) are all the interesting little behind-the-scenes tidbits that go along with it. I especially like the ones that mirror the plot of the film itself, like the re-dubbing and the hidden microphones (from IMDb):
- Gene Kelly insulted Debbie Reynolds for not being able to dance. Fred Astaire, who was hanging around the studio, found her crying under a piano and helped her with her routine (aww!)
- For the “Make ‘Em Laugh” number, Gene Kelly asked Donald O’Connor to revive a trick he had done as a young dancer, running up a wall and completing a somersault. The number was so physically taxing that O’Connor, who smoked four packs of cigarettes a day at the time, went to bed (or may have been hospitalized, depending on the source) for a week after its completion, suffering from exhaustion and painful carpet burns. Unfortunately, an accident ruined all of the initial footage, so after a brief rest, O’Connor, ever the professional, agreed to do the difficult number all over again (yup, love him even more now.)
- In the “Would You” number, Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds) is dubbing the voice of Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen) because Lina’s voice is shrill and screechy. However, it’s not Reynolds who is really speaking, it’s Jean Hagen herself, who actually had a beautiful deep, rich voice. So you have Jean Hagen dubbing Debbie Reynolds dubbing Jean Hagen. And when Debbie is supposedly dubbing Jean’s singing of “Would You”, the voice you hear singing actually belongs to Betty Noyes, who had a much richer singing voice than Debbie.
- The “Singing in the Rain” number took all day to set up – and Gene Kelly was very ill (some say with a fever over 101). When it was all set up, Kelly insisted on doing a take – even though the blocking was only rudimentary (starting and ending positions only), and the director was ready to send him home. He ad-libbed most of it and it only took one take – which is what you see on film (so badass.)
- A microphone was hidden in Debbie Reynolds’ blouse so her lines could be heard more clearly. During one of the dance numbers, her heartbeat can be heard, mirroring what happens to Lina Lamont in the movie itself.
- The movie begins with the premiere of Don Lockwood’s latest picture “The Royal Rascal”, a silent black-and-white adventure film. The footage shown is actually from a film MGM released in 1948 called “The Three Musketeers” starring Gene Kelly – which is in color and has sound. For “Singin’ in the Rain”, both color and sound were taken out of the footage and title cards were added. The other change was adding shots of Jean Hagen in place of “The Three Musketeers” leading lady, Lana Turner. If you look closely, it is Lana – not Jean – opening the door when the spear hits it.
So entertaining and timeless. No wonder many refer to it as the best musical ever made! 🙂
Cocktail #1: Mai Tai
Gotta have a fruity umbrella drink for this movie. Yes, the umbrella is pink and not black, but it’ll have to do! From Food Network’s Emeril Lagasse.
- 1 & 1/2 oz light rum
- 3/4 oz dark rum
- 1/2 oz dry curacao
- 1 oz pineapple juice
- 1/2 oz orange juice
- 1/4 oz lime juice
- dash grenadine
- garnish: maraschino cherry and paper umbrella
Shake all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Strain into a highball glass and add garnish. Some Elemakule Tiki Bitters would be delicious here, but I forgot about them until now.
Cocktail #2: Green Lady
In honor of the tantalizing femme fatale from the Broadway medley, played by Cyd Charisse. Get a load of the gams on her!!!
I wanted something with both chartreuse and Midori, for a lovely green coloring. Lo and behold, there actually is a drink called the Green Lady! It’s a variation on the classic Pink Lady / White Lady, with chartreuse in place of Cointreau or apple brandy. This one is adapted from the Washington Post. However, after making it, the taste just wasn’t as… awesome-tastic as I wanted it to be. And the color was more of a pale white. Boo.
So take #2 consisted of chartreuse, Midori, mezcal, honey, and lemon. This one is adapted from Complete Cocktails, and it’s actually called a Shogun Assassin. How kickass is that? As for the flavor: hell yeah, that’s more like it! The depth and smokiness of the mezcal is well balanced by the sweetness of the Midori and honey syrup. And sooooo pretty!!!
Green Lady Take #1 (just for reference)
- 1 & 1/2 oz gin
- 1/2 oz green chartreuse
- 1/4 oz Midori
- 1/2 oz fresh lime juice
- 1 egg white
Dry shake the egg white in an empty cocktail shaker. Shake with ice and remaining ingredients. Strain into a coupe glass.
Green Lady Take #2 (my preference!)
- 1 oz Midori
- 1 oz mezcal
- 1/2 oz green chartreuse
- 1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
- dash honey syrup (mix 2 parts honey with 1 part hot water)
Shake all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Strain into a coupe glass.
“Dignity, always dignity.”